Sunday, May 31, 2009

Brian Moran vs. Candidate Moran

Blue Virginia has a post up about Brian Moran's interview with Mark Plotkin on Friday. Plotkin's a tough interview, so kudos to Moran for even taking it on. Creigh, too, who tangled with Plotkin on May 22 and did not come away unscathed..

And those guys are going back for more later this week. (I believe McAuliffe has refused several invitations to Plotkin's show, but the two have had a dialogue, of sorts, through the media.)

Anyway, I agree with Lowell about Moran's dismal performance on this interview. At times, it was tough to listen to, and I say that as an advocate for a rival candidate, and as a humble blogger who holds the opinion that Brian Moran is not going to win this primary (with the proviso that predictions and opinions like mine count for nothing -- that's why they actually hold elections). And while I have written critically about Moran and the campaign he has run, I'm also aware that many people whose opinion I respect (and some whose I don't) are unalterably in his corner.

I'll take no joy in Moran's defeat, if it comes to pass, and sincerely hope that he will remain in public life, perhaps come back to run again for office.

But back to the election before us now.

To me, this debacle of an interview speaks to the fact that Brian Moran has been way too handled in this election, rather than just being himself. He seems so focused on staking out positions to simply win the primary that he has proven incapable of communicating who he is as a person, which I suspect, based on the ardor of his supporters, is much more attractive than he proved to be as a candidate. The end result has been a series of gaffes.

* How could Moran have made such a big deal of opposing the coal plant in Surry after voting for the one in Wise, without also being able to explain away, in 30 seconds, the inconsistency in those positions?

* How could Moran have criticized Terry McAuliffe for out of state fundraising when he had done so much of it himself?

* How could Moran say Creigh should be held accountable for his Marshall-Newman votes while he, himself, had voted against gay marriage in 2002?

And it continues in the Plotkin interview. The most painful part for me was Moran getting the procedure wrong wrong for amending the State Constitution -- he said it required votes in two consecutive sessions, when in fact the Virginia Constitution specifically requires an intervening House of Delegates election -- a very important requirement. Again, this just seems so much worse in light of Moran's snarky comment to McAuliffe at the Annandale debate about not having time to teach him the legislative process in Virginia.

Sigh. Live by the snark, die by the snark.

Similarly, when you make gay marriage rights the centerpiece of your campaign, when you grandstand about it and get sanctimonious about it, how can you go half-way on the issue? Oh, I understand the tactical rationale at play, how the definition of marriage is a wedge issue that ignites passions among and possibly favor the right wing of American politics, while civil unions is more easily presented as a more benign anti-discrimination issue, but when you make gay rights an issue of right or wrong, or good vs. evil, then you can't hedge on your commitment to that without seeming like your position is simply designed to pander to an interest group.

But that is, unfortunately, what Brian Moran appears to be doing in this interview. Here is the salient part:
MORAN: My opposition to the Marshall-Newman Amendment has been criticized by my opponents. Hey, Jim Webb opposed that, Mark Warner campaigned against it, Tim Kaine opposed it.

PLOTKIN: Tell people what the Marshall-Newman Amendment is.

MORAN: That placed discriminatory language in our Constitution. It banned civil unions and contracts between same sex individuals.

PLOTKIN: So, are you for civil unions or are you for same-sex marriage?

MORAN: Not for same sex marriage.

Huh? Not for same sex marriage?

Wait a sec. Didn't Moran call the passage of Marshall-Newman "one of the darker days in my 13 years of service in the legislature." Didn't he say, I don't believe anyone should be discriminated against[,]"

And shouldn't gay people have the same exact rights -- including the right to marry the person they love -- as heterosexual people? And isn't the denial of that right a form of discrimination, even if it replaced by a measure like civil unions? Yes and yes.

Perhaps realizing his untenable position, Brian quickly fell back on a talking point he introduced at the Annandale debate, namely, it is premature to have a discussion about these issues:
MORAN: I believe in equality. We can’t even have a discussion in Virginia right now regarding civil unions or contracts between same sex individuals. I think they should have contracts to allow them hospital visitation, domestic partner benefits, insurance. There’s a whole number of rights we can provide…

PLOTKIN: And as long as the Marshall-Newman amendment is in, you can’t have that conversation?

MORAN: You can’t even have that conversation, Mark.

PLOTKIN: So what would you do as Governor?

MORAN: I would work to repeal it so we can have that conversation

PLOTKIN: How do you repeal a Constitutional amendment?

MORAN: You use the bully pulpit to gain support in the legislature.
Not have a discussion? That left me utterly confused. This is exactly the time to talk about it.

Even though I think Brian Moran's pledge to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment is unrealistic, I praised his position and his willingness to discuss the subject precisely because these issues need to be discussed. Changing the votes on this issue in the General Assembly is not simply a matter of electing more Democrats; it is a matter of our leaders showing a willingness to discuss the subject and educate people about it. As I have said about this in the past:
Moran is ... right that if Virginia is to make progress on this critical issue, the next Governor needs to be willing to make it a priority to at least discuss it and begin the process of gathering public support behind the repeal of the Amendment. Moran’s admonition to McAuliffe that it won’t happen if you say “you don’t have the time,” even if that slightly distorts what McAuliffe actually said, is absolutely correct.

I'm not going to call on Moran to explain his position. And this is in no way meant to diminish the support he has shown to the GBLT community over the years. That community supports him, and it's not my place to question that. And the crazy thing is, my sense is that in his heart, citizen Moran thinks marriage ought to be available to all equally, even if Candidate Moran won't say it.

“Equality is a fundamental value that makes us Democrats,” Moran said in response to an endorsement from a gay rights interest group recently. “I’m proud that the Virginia Partisans recognizes my career-long fight to break down barriers and ensure equality. Virginians know where I will stand on this issue because they know where I have stood. Leadership isn’t easy.”

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